Assisted Living Fire Protection

Four Residents Found Dead Following Retirement Home Fire

Four Residents Found Dead Following Retirement Home Fire.jpg

A Pennsylvania retirement home, Barclay Friends, had a 5-alarm fire on November 16.  The flames reached 50 feet high and 400 responders arrived, according to the Philly Inquirer.  

It was a sad situatation, but brought the community together.  West Chester University students set up a temporary Red Cross shelter at the Ehringer Gym  This effort was headed by student and Friar Society member Joshua Dandridge.


The facility had 133 residents and 15 staff members evacuated.  

Related Article:  Littlefield Nursing Home Fire:  Fires in History

Approximately three weeks after the fire it came out that four residents died during this fire.  The victims were husband and wife, Delores Parker, 89, and Thomas Parker, 92.  Mildred Gadde, 93, and Theresa Mallory, 85 were the other two victims.  The cause of death for all four were smoke inhalation.

The retirement home did have fire sprinklers (Johnson Controls).  The company spokesperson said they are, "assisting authorities and currently gathering information to find out more details about the fire."

Related Article:  Des Plaines Nursing Home Case Study

This is an excerpt from Barclay Friends press release:

"As the day and weekend goes on, residents from Barclay Friends now dispersed over many different communities in and around Chester County will rest, begin to heal, and commence with the longer range planning to support more permanent transitions as they may be needed.”

The statement further read, “As we know more we will be sure to deliver updates. In the meantime, we are heartbroken by what’s befallen Barclay Friends and uplifted by the caring and generosity that surrounds them and us.”

Bethany Terrace Case Study

assisted living fire protection

Written By:  Sarah Block, Director of Marketing & Education

When an existing long-term care facility needed to complete their partial fire sprinkler system in an occupied facility, F.E. Moran Fire Protection and Michuda Construction worked together to solve the issues that naturally arise when working in existing, occupied spaces.

Holistic Care for Patients with Special Needs

As a holistic, long term care facility in Morton Grove, IL, Bethany Terrace has a unique population of occupants that may complicate construction projects within the facility. Bethany Terrace caters to Alzheimer Disease and Dementia patients as well as residents who appreciate the peace of mind of having medical, rehabilitation, and therapy options close at hand. This facility is ideal for those who need assistance in day to day life. However, because of the needs of the residents, construction must be coordinated carefully in order to have little to no impact on the occupants.

When Bethany Terrace decided to expand their fire protection system, they hired Michuda Construction to head the project. In turn, Michuda Construction hired F.E. Moran Fire Protection to design, install, and manage the fire protection project. With a reputation for quality work and respect for assisted living facility residents, F.E. Moran Fire Protection exceeded their expectations.

Complications Spurred from Existing Site


With a facility that houses patients that may either be immobile or have cognitive deficiencies, coordinating a fire protection project can be complicated. Because Bethany Terrance is an existing, running site, the installation needed to work with both the already existing fire sprinkler infrastructure and the resident's schedule and occupancies.

The first challenge began with the design of the fire protection system. Bethany Terrace was already partially protected with fire sprinklers, so F.E. Moran Fire Protection needed to work with the existing sprinkler system in order to make the property a 100% sprinklered facility. In order to merge the old and the new system, the original system, risers, and fire department connection needed to be re-worked to accommodate the new system. While the design was being created, it was discovered that the area above the ceiling had limited space with the I-beam construction.

Another challenge began in the coordination of the installation phase. The majority of the space that needed to be sprinklered was occupied by residents. In order to limit the impact on residents, F.E. Moran Fire Protection needed to strategically schedule installation and store equipment.

Working Together to Solve Coordination and Design Issues

With the help of Michuda Construction and Bethany Terrace, F.E. Moran Fire Protection re-routed the piping and minimized, and, in many cases, eliminated, the need to install soffits to conceal the piping. F.E. Moran Fire Protection was hired as a design-build contractor, so they were able to complete hydraulic calculations to minimize the pipe sizes in order to fit the small above ceiling space.

In order to accommodate the occupied areas during construction, F.E. Moran Fire Protection modified the phasing schedule to work with the patients' schedules. They worked closely with Bethany Terrace to create a schedule that would not impact the residents' daily activities and limited the duration of the project. With the combined efforts of F.E. Moran Fire Protection's office, design, and field staff, Michuda Construction's Superintendent, and Bethany Terrace personnel, the fire sprinkler installation schedule was able to be adjusted without extending the project.

Through the challenges of installing in an existing site with limited above ceiling space and working in an occupied facility, F.E. Moran Fire Protection, Michuda Construction, and Bethany Terrace were able to work together to install a fire sprinkler system on time and without impacting the special occupants residing within Bethany Terrace. Project Manager Pat Horan stated, "I thought the working relationship was very good and the owner was happy with our work." Ryan Johnson of Michuda Construction added, "The entire team worked together to provide a positive product in a timely manner."

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Des Plaines Nursing Home Case Study

Des Plaines Nursing Home

Written By:  Sarah Block, Director of Marketing & Education

When a fire sparked at a Des Plaines nursing home, the recently installed fire sprinklers were put to the test.

Fire Sprinklers Put to the Test

On February 19, 2015 at 8:15am, the fire department received a sprinkler activation alert at a Des Plaines Nursing Home. A mattress was on fire (cause has not been released), and the fire was contained to the point of origin thanks to fire sprinklers installed by F.E. Moran Fire Protection.

After a string of deadly fires in nursing homes, fire sprinklers became mandated and required to be installed by December 31, 2013. Because of this, there was an influx of fire sprinkler retrofit projects. With a retrofit at a nursing home comes certain obstacles, and this project was no exception.

Coordination is Key

When retrofitting a nursing home, the major hurdle is synchronizing with the patients. Every resident still needs a room, so careful coordination is key. Residents needed to have a room to stay and limited disruption to their daily schedules. After all, the patients are the center of the business, and their comfort and health are of the utmost importance.

Putting Patients First

To coordinate with patients' schedules, F.E. Moran Fire Protection worked with staff to create a timetable that minimized inconvenience to staff and patients. Their careful coordination allowed them to achieve production goals, keeping cost under control.


Fire Sprinklers Put to the Test

In the end, F.E. Moran Fire Protection finished the project successfully. Ken Klimasz said, "Overall the project was a success. [It] definitely supported the need for constant communication and flexibility by both parties for a successful outcome."

The fire sprinklers proved their worth when a fire ignited in a patient's room. The single fire sprinkler head activated, and controlled the blaze until fire fighters could extinguish it. Arnold Witzke, Fire Marshal for North Maine Fire Protection District said, "From the day of the incident, I felt it necessary to let you know the system your company installed needs to be credited with a save....Our department feels that there was a distinct possibility we could have had loss of life or more serious injuries than was experienced....on behalf of Fire Chief Richard Dobrowski and the entire North Maine Fire Protection District, job well done, F.E. Moran."

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Fire Protection for Immobile Patients: Top 3 Questions to Ask

fire protection for immobile patients

Writer:  Sarah Block, Marketing Director at The Moran Group

On Sunday, February 17, 1957, a visitor at Katie Jane Nursing Home in Warrenton, Missouri saw flames shooting out of a utility closet during religious services. One hundred and fifty-five people lived in the two and a half story nursing home at the time of the fire, but only eighty-five people survived the fire. It was determined that the facility had inadequate fire escapes, no sprinkler system, no alarm system, no evacuation plan, and some residents were locked inside their rooms. This fire helped pave the way for fire protection in assisted living facilities.

Beginning August 13, 2013, a fire sprinkler mandate will require all assisted living facilities, nursing homes, and senior living facilities to have fire sprinklers installed to protect residents from fire. People 65 and older are more than twice as likely to perish in a residential fire, and oftentimes, residents in assisted living facilities are immobile, adding a new level of difficulty in the event of a fire. For this reason, it is imperative for nursing homes and assisted living facilities to have a multi-tiered defensive fire protection plan.


What are the risks for non-ambulatory patients in a fire emergency?

From 2002 to 2005 2,810 structure fires ignited in nursing homes. This caused 16 civilian deaths, 130 injuries, and $6.6 million in direct property damage per year. Most fires began with a mattress, bedding material, electrical wiring, or cable insulation in the kitchen or bedroom. Bedroom fires were by far the most fatal. However, with automatic fire suppression, the death rate in a nursing home is lowered 94%. Immobile patients do not have a way to escape on their own. This is why fire sprinklers are a necessary part of any assisted living facility fire emergency plan.

How do you coordinate patients during a fire sprinkler installation?

There are several questions a facility will have when installing fire sprinklers in a nursing home with residents. How do you install in occupied rooms? How do contractors coordinate around planned activities?

When working with a qualified fire protection solution provider, the contractor will first have a meeting to learn the special needs of the facility. 
• What are the scheduled events and activities?
• Are there any non-critical areas?
• Is the facility 100% occupied?
• Do you have any stylistic preferences?

Once this is complete, a custom bid can be created to accommodate all the needs of the nursing home. The bid would include a room block schedule and contingencies. Then, a final meeting with all pertinent facility staff should take place. Everyone from the property manager to the nursing staff should include their input to ensure the schedule works. Once the schedule has been finalized, the contractor will use the non-critical area for storage and begin installing. When it is time to install in an occupied room, the resident will already be scheduled in either an activity or scheduled to room with another patient. The installation will take 4-8 hours per room, so it will never effect sleeping arrangements. Because of the meticulously coordinated schedule, patients, both mobile and immobile, are occupied during the installation, so it never affects them adversely.

How do I help non-ambulatory patients during a fire emergency?

The NFPA recommends the "Defend in Place" tactic during nursing home fires. Nursing homes and assisted living facilities should incorporate the combination of fire resistant building construction, sprinkler systems, detection, alarm systems, horizontal movement, compartmentalization (instead of an open concept, each room has fire-resistant walls, a ceiling, and floor), and staff training to reduce the likelihood of having to evacuate immobile patients.

Evacuating patients is a last resort, but if it must be done, first attempt to relocate to another part of the building, also called horizontal relocation. If evacuating from the building is necessary, there are several options to evacuate immobile patients.

• Safety Sheets - safety sheets can be used on mattresses. They have straps that allow staff to strap the patient to the sheet and remove them from the building.
• Evacuation Chair - if the non-ambulatory patient can sit, they can be placed on an evacuation chair and be taken to the ground floor.
• Paraslyde - this utilizes a stretcher made of cardboard. It weighs about 7 pounds and can fit a patient inside a compartment, allowing a technician to slide the patient down the stairs.
• Mattresses - if nothing else is available, patients can be removed using their mattress.

Protecting residents from fire in a nursing home or assisted living facility should be a priority for staff and owners. With a combination of fire sprinklers, smart construction, and trained staff, patients can rest easy knowing they are safe.

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Littlefield Nursing Home Fire: Fires in History

nursing home fire protection

Today, assisted living facilities have strict fire protection code. Occupants need to be able to stay in place in the event of a fire. Residents may be bedridden, have physical impairments, or have cognitive issues that can affect their ability to evacuate in the event of a fire. However, in 1953, that was not the case. It wasn't until 2002 that government agencies began taking a closer look at the fire protection needs of assisted living facilities, following several deadly senior living fires. In 1953, when the Littlefield Nursing Home burned, fire codes were barely existent - and the results show below.

The Scene

On Sunday, March 29, 1953, the nursing home residents at the little A-frame home known as Littlefield Nursing Home had no idea what was ahead of them.  Patients ranged from 55 to 94 years old with 57 patients in total – twenty-five lived to see the next day.  They were asleep at 3:15 am when smoke crept into the women’s dormitory, accompanied by flames, only to move swiftly to the men’s quarters.  

The Fire

The owners of the property lived there and awoke to smoke and fire. They doused the flames with a fire extinguisher, only to find it made no impact. The husband and wife team pivoted and started evacuating residents. 

They tried to call the fire department, but the wiring in the home had already burned through. There were no lights and no phone service. When firefighters were alerted, they were faced with many difficulties. The home was in an unincorporated area of Pinellas County, Florida. There was no water supply and the nearest city was two miles away. The fire department brought in tankers filled with water, fighting through the black halls to try and fight the fire. They kept running out of water, and having to travel two miles back to the city to fill back up. 

Another issue was the evacuation. Many of the residents had dementia or were bedridden. Instead of evacuating, they resisted and stayed put in their beds. Many residents were found lifeless, burnt to their beds.

"There were injuries to firemen and extreme heroism. Volunteers went into the building to pull people out," said Charlie Harper of the Largo Historical Society. It was the biggest fire in the history of Pinellas County. One hero was Nurse Gertrude. She carried a patient out of the residence and went back in for more. She never came out, becoming trapped by the flames, she became a victim of the Littlefield fire.

The Aftermath

By the time the fire was extinguished, 32 people had died in the fire. Most of them women. Another man was killed in an automobile accident trying to bring a victim to the hospital.

A cause was never found, despite it going to court. There are theories, however. Sheriff Sid Saunders believes the fire ignited from a freezer motor in the supply room from defective wiring. The owner, W.L. Littlefield rationalized that the fire started in a front bedroom, likely from a resident. Littlefield's son in law asserts that a resident snuck matches into the facility. Despite these theories, a true conclusion was never found.
The fire did result in fire protection reform. Then-Governor Dan McCarty extended state fire protection regulations to private assisted living facilities and nursing homes, bringing a semblance of purpose to this tragic event.

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